Chapter 150. Doctor Who – Survival (1990)

Synopsis: The Doctor brings Ace home to her own time and place. But the time is Sunday and the place is Perivale, the most boring place ever. Most of Ace’s friends have disappeared and the youth club has been taken over by a fanatical army type with a sadistic streak. On a distant planet, the Master waits for the Doctor’s arrival – only with the help of his oldest enemy can he hope to escape a world that is slowly turning him into a ferocious animal…

Chapter Titles

Numbered One to Eight, with a postscript.

Background: Rona Munro adapts her own scripts from the 1989 serial.

Notes: The man who’s abducted while washing his car is called Dave Aitken. His elderly neighbour who shoos away the cats is Mrs Bates. Ace and her gang used to listen to the music of ‘Guns and Roses’ [sic] and ‘Spondy Gee’. There’s a crack on the youth club door that was the result of a fight between Ace and Midge. They all used to hang around outside the local pub hoping they could persuade older kids to buy ‘cans’ for them. The Doctor puts a gold star-shaped coin from Psion B into Ange’s collection tin. Paterson is a police officer, not a sergeant in the territorial army as on TV (hence why he knows Ace was let off with a ‘warning’). After the sergeant criticises her for never phoning home, Ace recalls the events in 1945 that led to her meeting her mother as a baby. Still confused by the conflicting emotions the relationship with he rparents provokes, she feels distressed that the Doctor appears to be ignoring her in favour of his tins of cat food. This prompts her to walk off alone to gather her thoughts – watched by a kitling.

The kitlings (‘feline vultures’) can teleport from planet to planet in search of carrion and have been to Earth many times. They can ‘smell blood even across the vacuum of space’ – and the Cheetah People follow them in search of sport. Midge has posters for heavy metal bands in his room (on TV, he has a U2 album). 

Returning home in the early hours of Monday morning, Midge goes to the shop run by Len and Harvey and demands money. The Master releases a kitling in the shop, which transports the shopkeepers away. Midge kills both Paterson and Derek. After Karra is killed, Ace sees Shreela and tells her she won’t be staying in Perivale. Shreela helps her obtain some petrol and Ace lights a pyre for Karra and Midge, before walking off arm in arm with the Doctor (who does not deliver the speech we heard on TV). 

Cover: One of the most inventive covers ever, Alister Pearson paints a vista of the Cheetah people’s planet with portraits of a concerned Doctor, a possessed Ace and the Master’s black cat minion. The canvas has been slashed with four claw marks. An early pencil draft of this design also showed the Master’s face emerging from the cat’s torso, but this was dropped for the final painting.

Final Analysis: Another cracking novel, it’s largely what we saw on TV but with added violence and a generally more adult tone; as with Ghost Light, it’s beautifully written and visceral. The scene with Ange raising money for hunt saboteurs is enhanced by a shop window containing a dummy wearing a fur coat:

The Doctor pressed closer to the glass. Yellow fur, spotted fur, hung limp and soft on the dummy like the dead thing it was. There was no hint of the long muscles that had animated it, the bone, sinew, heart and lungs of the animal that had worn it as its own skin as it streaked across the dusty yellow savannah, the fastest creature on earth. There was only the barest reminder of the coat’s original owner, the animal that now reminded the Doctor so forcibly of the connection he had been looking for.

With just a couple of novels remaining, the Seventh Doctor era is shaping up to be the most consistent of the Target collection. At the back of this book, in a postscript, range editor Peter Darvill-Evans marked the fact that it appeared unlikely that Doctor Who was returning to our screens any time soon. He also revealed that as well as some remaining novelisations, plans were already underway to start publishing original novels – the continuing adventures of the Doctor and Ace.

Prologue – The Journey Begins

As a child, I was a frequent visitor to my local library. It was the boundary for the furthest point I was allowed to walk unaccompanied, it was a meeting place for friends – and it was the cause of more than one row with my best friend, who had a habit of snatching books out of my hand and rushing to sign them out before I could protest. They were hardback books with white spines that displayed the title and author in thick, black letters. The covers were laminated with plastic sheeting that was often tatty or torn and they had the same four words at the start of each title: ‘Doctor Who and the…’. Terrance Dicks wrote many of them, but there were others by such authors as Malcolm Hulke, David Whitaker and Gerry Davis. Some of them had illustrations inside of people looking shocked in a variety of scientific bases and weird alien landscapes. I had a real fascination for the covers, which were often montages of black-and-white portraits against brightly coloured galaxies made of bubbles.

Many Doctor Who fans who grew up in the 70s and 80s will recognise the descriptions here. Although the hardbacks were published by WH Allen, the paperback editions were released by their sub-brand Target. By the time I was nine years old, and recognising that an eagerness for reading should be encouraged, my parents bought me my first Target books of my own: Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus, Doctor Who and the Carnival of Monsters, Doctor Who and the Ark in Space, and Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster. Throughout the 1980s, I added to my collection at Christmas and birthdays, or if I’d saved up enough pocketmoney, and many of my own editions were bought from a two-storey bookshop on Renshaw Street, Liverpool (sadly no longer there). That’s where I bought Doctor Who and the Zarbi, Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons and many, many more…

Despite an enthusiasm for the stories and easy access to other bookshops, I never quite managed to collect the set. Doctor Who had been huge in 1984, but just a year later, it was put on hold for 18 months and even though it limped on for four more years, it wasn’t the communal interest it had once been. By the early 90s, Doctor Who was over and my friends were discussing Star Trek: The Next Generation or looking back to other shows such as Blake’s 7, The Avengers or Gerry Anderson’s puppet series. 

In this digital age, where space is limited and bookshelves store DVDs instead, it’s been a real blessing to stumble across someone who has scanned every one of the Doctor Who books, including the covers and illustrations, and made them available in an eBook-friendly format. There are also audiobooks of many of the books, read by the actors who starred in the TV originals. So now, equipped with a complete set of Target books for the first time, I’m ready to start a pilgrimage through time and space.

Just a quick note, though. As of 2021, although there are a select few modern stories adapted (ie, stories transmitted after 2005), there’s no stated intention to novelise every single one. On the upside, the addition of four new novels means there’s now a complete run of books spanning 1963-96. Just to give it a proper end-point therefore, the focus of this project will be the ‘classic’ era only.

Care to join me on this quest? This amazing wiki guide lists all the books in order of publication with loads of extra information.